Tactically speaking - Fulham

The Official Website takes an in-depth look at how Rene Meulensteen's Fulham could line up at Craven Cottage on New Year's Day

Possible starting XI

Stockdale

Reither  Amorebieta  Hughes  Riise

Parker  Sidwell

Kacaniklic  Kasami  Richardson

Berbatov

Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen - and his new technical director Alan Curbishley - could be tempted to make wholesale changes to the Cottagers' starting XI following Saturday's 6-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Hull City.

Since Dutchman Meulensteen took over from compatriot Martin Jol after Fulham's 3-0 defeat at West Ham United on 30 November, the west London side have won two and lost four of their six league matches, scoring eight goals and conceding an alarming 17.

Fulham's defensive frailties are nothing new, however, as the Cottagers have conceded 41 goals - nine more than any other club - and possess the top flight's worst goal difference of minus 22.

Style-wise, Fulham like to pass the ball, completing 81 per cent of their passes, and play with width and flair, but an average of 45 per cent of possession illustrates that the Cottagers have had trouble imposing themselves on matches this season.

Defensively, Fulham have conceded all types of goals - from set pieces, open play, through balls, headers, long-range shots, individual errors and counter-attacks.

Injuries to key defensive players have certainly not aided Fulham's cause, with Netherlands international goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg out with an ankle injury, having previously missed two months with a shoulder problem.

Stekelenburg's place will go to David Stockdale, who returned to the side for the Boxing Day win at Norwich City. A tall goalkeeper, Stockdale is a good shot-stopper, quick off his line and does not mind coming for high balls into the penalty area. He has kept two clean sheets in nine league appearances this season.

German Sascha Reither has returned from a three-match ban to take his place at right-back, although he was on the bench for the Hull thrashing. The 5'9" defender is a tenacious full-back with a low centre of gravity. A determined character, the 30-year-old is arguably better going forward than backward, and is particularly good in possession.

If Reither is not recalled, the right-back will be Montenegro international Elvir Zverotic, who is a compact and alert defender who is neat and tidy in possession.

Norwegian veteran John Arne Riise has returned to the side under Meulensteen. Like Reither, the left-back is an attack-minded player who likes to create from the back.

In the centre, the continued absence of Riise's fellow countryman Brede Hangeland has hampered Fulham's defensive cause.

Hangeland could return from a groin problem on Wednesday, giving Fulham a huge boost with his physical presence in both penalty areas. A tall and strong centre-back, the 32-year-old is a commanding figure in the air and also a composed presence on the ground.

Should Hangeland not be available, Aaron Hughes and Fernando Amorebieta could continue at centre-back. At 34, Hughes remains a composed, reliable figure who still has a bit of pace to deal with more mobile attackers. Summer arrival Amorebieta is a more physical centre-back, left-footed and strong in the air.

Hughes and Amorebieta have been busy this season, combining to make 238 clearances, 41 interceptions and block 23 shots.

In front of them, Scott Parker is set to return in defensive midfield. At 33, the former Hammer has adapted his game a little, but he still wins the ball back and uses it intelligently from his central midfield position. Parker has completed a team-high 814 passes this season with a success rate of 86.9 per cent.

On Boxing Day, he showed he can still score the odd goal, too, by belting in an 87th-minute winner at Norwich.

Alongside Parker, Steve Sidwell is another experienced all-action midfielder and has made more tackles (53) and interceptions (41) than any other Fulham player this term. Like the England international, Sidwell works hard for the team, keeps possession and can pop up with the odd goal.

A third option in the defensive midfield position is Greece veteran Giorgos Karagounis. At 36, Karagounis is stocky and mobile and still retains a great appetite for the game.

Iranian Ashkan Dejagah started at Hull on Saturday, but the 27-year-old was substituted midway through the second half and is unlikely to retain his place on New Year's Day.

In the centre of the attacking midfield three, Swiss youngster Pajtim Kasami is a tall, mobile attacking central midfield player who can run with the ball at pace, and shoot with either foot, attempting a team-high 23 dribbles and 35 shots on goal this season.

To his right, Sweden winger Alex Kacaniklic was preferred to the mercurial Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz at Norwich. A typical wideman, Kacaniklic likes to run with the ball and deliver crosses, having done so a team-high 47 times this season.

Riise's return to the fold has allowed Kieran Richardson to assume a more advanced midfield role on the left of a three, having started the season at left-back. Mobile and quick onto the ball, Richardson likes to bring the ball forward and has been known to let fly with dangerous long-range shots.

Up front, Meulensteen has chopped and changed his selection in recent matches. With Berbatov out and Darren Bent seemingly out of favour, Colombian Hugo Rodallega and unpredictable Moroccan Adel Taarabt have been given opportunities to impress.

Should he be available, Berbatov is technically outstanding, deceptively quick over the first few yards, can hold the ball up and has decent aerial ability. On his day, he remains a top-class all-round centre forward.

Rodallega, who, like Berbatov, scored in this fixture last season, is a physical striker who thrives when the ball is in the air with his heading ability.

Taarabt is an attacker who possesses a range of skills. He is strong, quick and able to beat a man with ease, while he can also create goals with his passing and score them with his accurate long-range shooting.

England international Bent has forged a reputation for his finishing ability, but he has had few chances to illustrate this so far during his season-long loan spell from Aston Villa.